Members of Claremont’s queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) community staged a demonstration to call attention to the needs of QTPOC students during the annual open house of the Queer Resource Center (QRC) of the Claremont Colleges on Sept. 15.
Following QRC Director Adriana di Bartolo’s address to guests, Danie Diamond SC '15 read a statement on behalf of the QTPOC community accusing di Bartolo of not supporting QTPOC students and suggesting that the QRC had failed to respect its mission statement’s call for inclusivity. The full statement was published on the website of Conscious, the self-described radical publication at the Claremont Colleges, the day of the protest.
“We have long been exhausted from being exploited for immeasurable amounts of emotional labor we do for minimum wage, trying to make a space that has been alienating to QTPOC safer for our community at the expense of our own mental health, but your latest incident has been alarmingly violent,” the statement reads, referring to the dismissal of former QRC employee Ariel Hernandez Ramirez PO '16.
Diamond’s speech was initially met with silence and some supportive snapping from the audience. While many students were not aware of Hernandez Ramirez’s situation, the demonstration raised concerns about the inclusivitity of the QRC.
“It definitely makes me question whether or not I want to be involved,” said Sajo Jefferson PO ’19, a first-year student who said she went to the open house to “find out if this is a space that I might be able to call home.”
Some students within the community echoed Diamond’s sentiments.
“I was very happy that it happened,” said Eli Erlick PZ '17, who has been involved with the QRC's Queer, Questioning and Allied Mentor Program. “It was necessary. It’s been far too long that the QRC and particularly Adriana have been leaving out queer people of color and trans people from the community.”
Hernandez Ramirez and Diamond declined to comment to TSL.
“I appreciate the efforts of students and allies to bring attention to the most marginalized in all of our communities,” di Bartolo wrote in an email to TSL. “I look forward to staying in continued dialogue with all who wish to do so. While we can always seek to improve, our entire team is proud of the broad array of programming and services we provide for the multiple intersections of identities, including QTPOC communities.”
Because 2015 marks the five-year anniversary of the QRC serving all seven Claremont Colleges, an external review is planned, with forums to be held on Oct 5 and 6. The assessment will be conducted by directors of other LGBTQ centers across the country and will address the demonstrators' concerns. They will evaluate whether the QRC is meeting its goals and make recommendations for staffing, including student workers. The resulting report will be made public and followed up with forums to talk about the results.
In light of Tuesday’s events, Jefferson said that she wants to assess the QRC for herself, but that she is grateful to those who spoke.
“If there are queer people of color who feel like they’ve been denied anything by a place that’s supposed to be a resource to them, I think that silence is not the answer,” Jefferson said. “I think that people need to speak their truth, so if that’s the truth then it needs to be heard and I’m glad that I’m able to hear it.”